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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    Updated: Ledyard residents blast away at proposed quarry operation

    Terri Isenburg holds a sign opposing the proposed Gales Ferry Intermodal rock quarry operation in Gales Ferry during a public hearing Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, at the Ledyard Middle School. Photo by Lee Howard/The Day
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    Anne Roberts-Pierson prepares to give a speech opposing the proposed Gales Ferry Intermodal rock quarry operation in Gales Ferry during a public hearing Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, at the Ledyard Middle School. Photo by Lee Howard/The Day
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    Ledyard ― In the third hearing on an application to quarry rock from historic Mount Decatur, more opponents told the Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday that town regulations and the proposed economic development of the site are not compatible.

    Meeting at Ledyard Middle School for the third time in five weeks, the commission said at the end of the meeting that the hearing would be extended to Feb. 8 and could run again on Feb. 22. The commissioners must make a decision on the application by late April, and could do so as early as March.

    David Harned, speaking on behalf of himself and the Citizens Alliance for Land Use, kicked off the meeting Thursday by running through several zoning regulations and special-permit requirements that he said should lead the commission to reject the quarry operation. His half-hour presentation elicited several outbursts of applause.

    “It must be denied,” Harned said of the application. “If Cashman (the applicant also known as Gales Ferry Intermodal) wants to show they want to be a good neighbor they would withdraw this application and not put us through this exercise.”

    Harned said he was not against economic development, but town zoning regulations do not allow a quarry application on the site. He cited a host of regulations, including ones that call for no vibrations to be “transmitted beyond the boundaries of the land on which it originates,“ as well as another providing that the use of explosives and rock crushing equipment ”may be limited as a condition of the permit.“

    Harned went on to rebut Gales Ferry Intermodal’s argument that the commission should approve the quarry because it had previously approved a similar operation at Baldwin Hill. He said the logic would be similar to Waterford being asked to approve another Speedbowl that is 10 times bigger than the current facility simply because the town already had a racetrack in town.

    “Can we stop talking about Baldwin Hill now, please?” he said.

    Harned also pointed to regulations that require excavation work to be done in such a way that “the work will not be a source of dust, pollution and/or siltation.” He also cited a regulation requiring that any work done will not involve unsightliness “as evidenced in open pits, rubble or other indications of completed digging operations.”

    He said such language indicates that the Ledyard zoning regulations never envisioned any quarry operation approval in town. He added that there is no way to guarantee that toxic silica dust will not be the result of the operation, no matter what precautions are taken.

    “You adopted zoning regulations to accomplish exactly what they are intended to do,” he concluded.

    At an earlier hearing, Gales Ferry Intermodal maintained the project fits within the historic use of the 150-acre former Dow Chemical property, as a transportation hub and industrial site and that Cashman Dredging & Marine Contracting would be a good community partner.

    Others at Thursday’s hearing cited the historic nature of nearby Mount Decatur, the possibility of so-called flyrock emanating from the site during proposed blasting of the hill and the effects on property values. Groups opposing the project read into the record included the American Battlefield Trust and a local cemetery commission.

    No one spoke in favor of the quarry Thursday, and only one non-resident has spoken in favor during the past two hearings.

    Anne Roberts-Pierson, a nearby resident, said in her presentation that she believes Mount Decatur, a historic site with ties to the War of 1812, should be designated a National Historic Landmark.

    “America's 250th anniversary is a few years from now,” she said. “Will Mount Decatur still stand tall at that time? ... . Or will Mount Decatur be plundered into aggregate and cast down to the cold, dark depths of the sea?”

    Among other speakers who spoke until 10 p.m. was Chrissy Cerveny, who lives atop Mount Decatur. She cited several health issues, including chronic heart failure and PTSD, for opposing the quarry.

    “What we expected to be a serene environment ... now they want to turn it essentially into a war zone,” she said.

    Others said that the applicant had not submitted enough information on environmental and traffic effects for the commission to make a decision. GFI, the operating name for the operation, has said it will use water to mitigate the problem with silica dust and says its use of advanced technology will reduce issues with blasting noise.

    Speaking about the silica dust that will likely result from the quarry operation, resident Bruce Edwards said of GFI, “They did not say how far and how intensely dangerous that dust will be in our town. ... Nothing about silicosis, a cancerous lung disease caused by exposure to silica dust.”

    Anderson Road resident Thomas Thomas recounted the effect of dust stirred up by trucks in the neighborhood already going in and out of the former Dow Chemical site also occupied by Americas Styrenics.

    “It’s covering everything,” he said. “We’re the ones who are going to have to clean up the mess, deal with the mess every single day, and it’s going to be forever.”

    Carlo Porazzi, who lives on Chapman Lane, pointed to several people considering leaving town to avoid the quarry operation.

    “Please don’t be swayed by the hype,” he said. “We live here. We pay our taxes to live here and raise our families. We are counting on you the commission to do right for us, the residents and the town, and its future.”

    Susan Axline, who lives on Route 12 across from the proposed quarry, said she just bought her house recently after living in it for many years. She opposed the idea because of potential noise and the loss of green and open spaces.

    The quarry at Mount Decatur requires a special permit that the group Citizens Alliance for Land Use and others have argued over the past two commission meetings should be denied. Among their arguments is that fugitive dust, small particles emitted during the quarrying process, could cause respiratory problems.

    The applicant will have a chance to rebut these arguments in the next meeting after all the residents who wanted to speak get a chance to do so. Residents will get one more chance to speak after the rebuttal is over.


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